As CEO and co-founder of the world’s most-awarded digital agency, AKQA, Ajaz Ahmed is a digital pioneer whose passion for brands was evident at the recent Asia Pacific Media Forum in Bali, Indonesia.
Echoing themes in his upcoming book Limitless: Leadership That Endures, Ahmed was speaking to an audience of agencies and media buyers. Yet his message struck me as peculiarly relevant to media companies aiming to find their place in the New World Order.
First, the test of a good organisation is that if they disappeared, society would be poorer for it. News brands most assuredly would qualify – more so for newspapers that pump out the vital information that keeps communities going every day.
Second, channeling his best next-generation Jason Jennings, he toyed with a maxim aimed on marketers yet seems relevant for publishers:
- The fast will eat the slow.
- The big will not always beat the small.
- The simple will always displace the complex.
Third, companies that succeed the most are in sharp and clear conflict with something in society that makes them unique:
- AKQA is in conflict with mediocrity (OK, we would expect an agency to say that).
- Governments are in conflict with injustice and inequality.
- Facebook is in conflict with isolation.
- Disney is in conflict with misery.
What are newspapers in conflict with? What are magazines in conflict with? What are digital aggregators in conflict with?
What is journalism in conflict with? What are media-branded advertising and marketing solutions in conflict with?
It is easy to reach for our more noble angels when trying to answer. Let’s, instead, aim to be blunt.
What are news media companies in conflict with? Secrecy? Stupidity? Information overload? Noise? Relevance? Effectiveness?
I have more questions than answers, yet I thought Ahmed provided news publishers with an excellent mechanism to burrow into their unique value propositions and to provoke debate.
In a world in which 71% of start-ups fail within 10 years and 55% fail within three years and the average age of a Fortune 500 company has shifted from 61 in 1958 to 18 in 2014 (source: Ahmed), these seem like the correct questions.
What are we in conflict with?